Monday, March 19, 2018

Koodal Azhagar Temple – The Temple

Koodal Azhagar Temple – The Temple
Koodal Azhagar temple covers an area of about 2 acres (0.81 hectares) and has a five-tiered gopuram (gateway tower) raising to a height of 125 ft (38 m). In the Rajagopuram, one sees the story of the Ramayana and Mahabharata depicted through sculpture in different tiers of the tower. These sculptures can be closely seen from Tier 1 of the temple and are not to be missed. This is a beautiful temple, with interesting stone grills and sculptures and two prakarams.

The temple in enclosed in a rectangular enclosure with huge granite walls. The pillars in the halls leading to the sanctum have small sculptures. The central shrine has an elevated structure and houses the images of the presiding deity, Koodal Azhagar, in three forms, namely sitting, standing and reclining postures. At the bottom level the deity is represented in the Veetrirundha Kolam, sitting under Adhiseshan, the snake. He is also called ‘Viyooga Soundararajan’ and this icon is the Utsava Moorthy of this temple.

In the middle level the deity is in the sleeping position ‘Anthara Vaanathu Empiraan’ – Lord of the limitless skies. At the uppermost level, the icon is represented standing resplendent as the Sun God Soorya Narayanan in Nindra Thirukolam (standing posture). Convenient steps have been provided to reach all levels without any difficulty. The stone walls on the 3 sides of the Athistanam are full of artistic works. Sun’s rays reach the sanctum sanctorum through the 7 windows in this wall.

The vimana, the shrine over the sanctum is Ashtanga, with eight sides that represents the eight-syllable Astakshara Manthra of Lord Vishnu, ‘Om Namo Narayana’, in architecture, which has eight parts, namely, Adhishtana (base), three Padas(struct), Prashthana (limb), Griva (leading struct), Shikara (cylindrical holder) and Stupi (top portion). The temple tower is a beautiful structure and unlike a typical pyramid structure, has a slightly more circular dome-like structure that adds to the beauty.

The outer parts of the vimana has stucco images of sages, Dasavathara, Bhu Varaha, Lakshmi Narasimha, Lakshmi Narayana and Narayana Moorthy. The vimana is believed to be the work of Vishwakarma, the divine architect. The shadow of the vimana does not fall on the ground. The Ashtanga Vimana is found in Mannar Koil, Ambasamudram, Uthiramerur, Thirukoshtiyur and Cheranmadevi temples. The inner walls of the sanctum have paintings of Ashtadikpalakas.

Devotees can climb up the Sanctum Tower for a small fee and it offers a breath-taking view of the Madurai City. Devotees can have a closer look at the richly decorated superstructure, the Ashtanga Vimanam over the sanctum. Intricate woodcarvings, especially of the coronation of Lord Rama, are wonderfully detailed. The decorative windows, with delicately designed wooden panes, are a remarkable feature of the Koodal Alagar Temple. The deities in the gopuram are not well maintained.

The shadow of the Vimanam (gopuram) never falls on the ground. It is one of the few temples in the country built in tiers. Mother is called as Mathuravalli / Maragatha Valli / Vagulavalli. The shrine of the consort of Koodal Azhagar, Mathuravalli, is located to the south of the main shrine in the first prakaram. The shrines of Garuda, Anjaneya, RamanujaVedanta Desika and Azhwars are found in the second precinct.

There are smaller shrines of Lakshmi Narasimha, Rama, Lakshmi Narayana and Krishna located close to the sanctum. The shrines of Narasimha and Manavala Mamunigal are found in separate shrines around the first precinct. There is a shrine for Andal Naachiyaar, the poetess devotee of Lord Vishnu in the northern side of the first precinct. The shrine of Andal has painting depicting puranic stories and inscriptions detailing devotional literature.

The Navagraha Sannidhi, the shrine to the nine planets is not usually found in Vishnu’s temples. They are usually associated with Lord Shiva’s temples. However, in this temple, a separate sannidhi for Navagrahas can be seen. The prakarams have representations of the presiding gods of all the 108 Divya Desams of the Vaishnavas. Sthala Vriksham is Kadhali.

The other impressive features of the Koodal Alagar Temple, Madurai include the ornamental windows. They are elegantly carved and reflective of the exceptional skills of the stone masons. The intricately carved wooden panels are simply spectacular. There is an oonjal mandapam (swinging mandapam) full of artistic wooden works. Large Monolithic sculptures of Yalis and musical pillars can be found in this temple. This temple is endowed with a beautiful wooden Car.

The Pushkaranis for the temple are Hema Pushkarani, Vaigai River, Chakkara Theertham and Kirutha Maala River. The Hema Pushkarani (pond) was formed from the waters of the Kirutha Maala River, which once ran through Madurai. Hema Pushkarani is located outside the temple premises. It has a centre hall made of granite. The temple was renovated in 2006 using special natural vegetable dyes and paint made from medicinal herbs in Kerala.